After splitting with the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) to join Larry Campbell’s Vision Vancouver party in July, Jim Green now wants to be mayor of Vancouver.
Xtra West sat down with Green Oct 24 to ask how queer people fit into his vision of Vancouver.
Xtra West: As the division between rich and poor grows in Vancouver, it seems like there may be a risk for some politicians of being branded as the gay candidate. Do you think there’s a risk to your chances of winning this election by being supported by the gay community?
Jim Green: If there is, I could care less. People who wouldn’t vote for me for that reason, I don’t want their vote. Same thing as I don’t want somebody who won’t vote for me because I go to the Sikh temple. I don’t want their vote and I don’t need it in a city like Vancouver. I don’t need that vote so I don’t ever think about it.
XW: You’ve been in the city for many years. Have you noticed a values shift in how people in Vancouver view homosexuality?
JG: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s much more open. Take a candidate [for city council] like Tim Stevenson. Here’s a guy who said: ‘I’m gay. I’m going to be a minister, and I’m going to adopt children with my partner and if the laws don’t allow me to do that, then I’m going to change them.’
Some people are upset about the fact that people of the same sex can get married. Why in the name of God wouldn’t you want other people to have the same rights that you have? I’ve heard ‘well it cheapens my relationship.’
Really, well really? What about the guy who gets married and then murders his wife? Does that not cheapen your relationship a hell of a lot more than two people in love? That’s what [Vancouver Mayor] Larry Campbell said. It has nothing to do with laws. It has to do with love. That’s the answer, period.
XW: Bashing is still a problem. It still happens all the time and it’s targeted against people who are queer or look like they’re queer.
JG: Or walking through the West End at 2 o’clock in the morning, just because they’re there, right?
XW: It’s a really difficult thing to get people behind. For one thing, there isn’t any data we can point to and say this is how often it happens. Is there anything you could do as mayor that could help us to address that?
JG: I think there’s a couple of things. First of all by adding 100 new cops over the next two years. I think that will help. We’re trying to work with the police in all kinds of preventative things. By having more police out on the streets, I think it’s going to help in general. The more the police force can show itself to be a friendly police force to the gay community, the better off we all are.
We have several gay and lesbian police officers. We have at least one transgendered police officer. I think we have to see it as a straight-on hate crime. There’s no other explanation except hatred and it should be treated as such.
XW: It feels that way and the stories I get from people in the queer community are very similar. The police force has gotten much better over the past few years and that’s great. Nevertheless, we’re still getting beaten up.
JG: Probably when you’re 90 there’ll still be a problem. Let’s try and reduce it as close to zero as we can.
I just read that Vancouver is the best place to live. If you’re not safe here it’s not the best for you. If you’re living on the streets it’s not the best place on earth.
Again, how do the police [in Vancouver] treat people who in other cities are treated terribly? Our police are pretty good with homeless people compared to anyplace else. The fact that our police support a safe injection site.
I talked to [Vancouver Police Chief] Jamie Graham about it the other day, and he says he goes to conferences of chiefs of police and they look at him like he’s an insane person. What are they going to say in Houston, Texas?
It’s the same thing for gay people. They are a lot better off in Vancouver than they are in other places, but that’s not good enough. I understand that.
XW: During the last term you supported the extension of liquor licences for gay spaces in the Davie Village. Will that continue if you’re elected mayor?
JG: I think one of the best things I’ve done this term, and people don’t know it, if you walked into a restaurant in Vancouver two weeks ago and there was a singer, a microphone, or there was someone dancing, the owner would get a $2,000 fine.
It was illegal to have performers or have people dance in a restaurant in the city of Vancouver until two or three weeks ago. It was a motion I moved. Now you can go anywhere and have all the music you want to and dance with your friends or your partner as long as you don’t disturb the neighbours. I just changed the noise bylaw.
We never get any complaints on Davie St. Some from Celebrities, but they fixed it. So it’s working very well.
XW: So as mayor you would support more licenses for gay spaces?
JG: One of the things we said we’d do when we were elected is that we’d get rid of the label “no fun city” and I think we’ve done that pretty thoroughly on every level. It’s not just music and bars and all other cultural events. We’ve kept the fireworks alive and I’m really proud of that.
In the year 2000, the NPA [Non-Partisan Association] outlawed New Year’s Eve. The millennium. You could not go downtown or you’d get arrested if you went downtown to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
We’ve got that behind us now.
XW: I don’t know if there are feelings in the gay community that they’d like to push for this, but one of things that came up when we were talking about getting those hours extended to the same as Granville St was the option that maybe the thing to do would be to talk about making the Davie Village an entertainment district on its own.
JG: That’s certainly something to look at. It doesn’t make a lot of difference really. The entertainment district really doesn’t include most of the bars on Granville St. For instance the Yale is not in it. I moved to do that and I was defeated by Sam [Sullivan] and the COPE guys. It’s unfortunate. I’m not sure it would help that much, but certainly it’s something I’d look at. It’s going great right now both on Davie and Granville St.
There’s another issue: if you talk to the cops, there’s no problems on Davie St compared with Granville St where there have been, those are pretty much worked out now.
XW: Your opponents raise this Four Corners controversy, and your critics often criticize you as spending too much money and being weak with numbers.
JG: First of all, it’s an interesting one. Four Corners had a game plan that at the end of five years we’d break even. We were dead on target when [BC Premier] Gordon Campbell closed the bank down. No one could put services to 6,000 people without charging them a dime without it costing.
The other thing, so we can put it to rest, sitting next to me on that board was Sam Sullivan, which he never mentions. He never moved a motion of concern about anything. All of our votes as far as I know were unanimous.
It could still be there, but ideologically, the Liberals killed it. So there you go. Plus I did $100 million dollars worth of housing without ever having a penny overrun or without ever having anything go sideways at all.
XW: Do you have a reassurance strategy? Do you have a financial team to make sure…
JG: I’ve got the best guy on the earth with Raymond Louie. Our staff is always saying to Raymond: ‘would you please leave so we can hire you?’
We have a very highly skilled and experienced financial staff, no question.
XW: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask what you plan to do about homelessness.
JG: When you really get down to it, almost every issue we deal with in Vancouver comes back to the same problems: homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness that’s not being treated.
Those then lead to all kinds of other problems like street disorder and property crimes and all of those things. Most people in Vancouver care about homelessness.
To those that don’t, I’d say this to them: It costs $40,000 a year for every person that lives on our streets. I can house that person and give them an income for $25,000 a year. It makes economic sense to care about your fellow human beings.
We have a very good strategy called the Homelessness Action Plan that we’re working on now.
The four pillars approach is something I’m going to continue to work on. Sam was saying he was going to take it apart. It is working. I’m saying that the fifth pillar is economic development and getting people employment and I’ve been doing that for decades. That is really the way out. We really emphasize all of those aspects.
Supportive housing is the number one issue. It’s the head of all the planks in my platform. If we don’t deal with it, it’s going to deal with us.
XW: Why should queer people vote for Jim Green?
JG: Well, Jim Green has spent his life working against injustice. I started as a kid registering black people to vote in the southern United States and working in migrant labour camps and stuff like that.
That’s one reason.
Gay people don’t vote for people just because they happen to be gay. They also have all the other issues of safety. I want people to be safe in the city. I want it to be the city that is truly the greatest city on earth. We can have fun, we can really experience ourselves and be creative and imaginative and we can have employment and we can afford to live in our city.
If I can carry out those goals, I think they’ll be good for everyone.